On January 29, 1993, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley stood among a swarm of public officials and transit agency staffers on the cramped Pershing Square subway platform. Standing shoulders above everyone else, including then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, Bradley proudly inaugurated the opening of the first modern subway in Los Angeles.
“Twenty years is a long time. That’s how long we have been pushing on this dream, this vision of what we should do in Los Angeles County,” Bradley said, referring to the subway’s quixotic path to reality in ‘93. “I made a promise when I ran for mayor in 1973 that in 18 months, we’d deliver by breaking ground for rapid transit. Well, I missed by only a few months…”
Today, Metro marks the 20th anniversary of the Metro Red Line’s first phase from Union Station to MacArthur Park, a nearly 4.5-mile construction milestone that began a brand new chapter in regional rail construction and placing L.A. among other major cities across the globe with high-speed, high-capacity subways.
The transit advocacy group Move LA has seen increasingly larger crowds for its previous four annual conferences. This year’s conference is Friday, Feb. 1, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the old ticketing area at the front of Los Angeles Union Station (i.e. the Alameda Street side of Union Station, which The Source officially recognizes as “the front.”
The first panel discussion of the day deals with a topic that is probably on the mind of many of you: where might money come from for transit projects in the wake of the narrow loss of Measure J at the polls last year? Among the panelists: Metro CEO Art Leahy and Metro Board Member Richard Katz.
The afternoon panel discussion on “The DNA of Transit Corridors” also looks intriguing given that development around some of the region’s heaviest used transit lines has been sporadic. The panel is mostly comprised of officials from the city of Los Angeles or Metro so it will be interesting to see if there are diverse views on how our region is faring — or whether everyone just agrees we’re doing swell.
Move LA — which does receive some financial support from Metro — is headed by Executive Director Denny Zane, the former Santa Monica Councilmember and Mayor. He’s been a regular presence on the L.A. transit scene for a number of years now and was one of the major advocates who pushed for the passage of Measure R in 2008. Denny will be leading the morning panel discussion on transportation funding and my best guess is he may drop an opinion or two.
Good morning, Source readers! If you detect that extra bounce in our step it’s perhaps because the first full meeting of the Metro Board of Directors begins at 9 a.m. today at Metro headquarters adjacent to Los Angeles Union Station.
If you’re in the neighborhood, feel free to stop by and watch. Meetings take place in the third floor Board room and are, of course, free to the public. Sorry, no reserved seating and no popcorn!
There’s a lot of business for the Board to tackle with approvals needed for the purchase of 550 new buses and several other contracts for planning or community outreach on transportation projects.
The Board is also scheduled to consider whether to continue planning efforts on second and third decade transportation projects — here’s a post about that – and also consider a motion to abolish the $3 maintenance fee on FasTrak accounts to use the Metro ExpressLanes. Here’s a recent post about that issue.
For those who want to listen to the meeting — sorry, the meetings aren’t webcast — please call 213-922-6045. I’ll also be updating The Source throughout the day.
One of the key questions facing the Metro Board of Directors at its meeting Thursday: should Metro continue to plan projects that are scheduled to be built in the second and third decades of Measure R?
These include transit projects such as an extension of the Gold Line from East Los Angeles, a Green Line extension from Redondo Beach, the Airport Metro Connector and the West Santa Ana Branch Corridor project.
Some quick background. Measure R is the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. Measure R expires in mid-2039. The schedule to build transit projects that Measure R will help fund are staggered over the 30 years for a simple reason: the sales tax funds needed to pay for the projects flows into county coffers over time, not all at once.
Even though several projects are not scheduled to completed until the 2020s or 2030s, Metro has been working on the required environmental studies for them. Why? Because the Metro Board has pursued strategies to secure funding to accelerate those projects (such as America Fast Forward). And history has shown time and again that transit projects that are clearly defined with solid plans are more competitive when it comes to winning often scarce money.
There is one important caveat to consider: once finished, environmental studies have a shelf life of about three years. If work doesn’t begin on a project within three years of the completion of the environmental documents, the studies for that project would likely need to be updated, which can be pricey and time-consuming.
Below is the Metro staff report (pdf here). It is scheduled to be considered at the Metro Board of Directors meeting Thursday at 9:00 a.m. at Metro headquarters adjacent to Los Angeles Union Station.
The Gold Line adjacent to Los Angeles State Historic Park on a recent afternoon. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
Gold Line trains currently run every 12 minutes during the day on weekends so this is a big-time improvement. Here’s the news release from Metro:
Beginning Sunday, January 27, Metro will operate more frequent service along the Metro Gold Line, improving train service from every 12 minutes to every 6 minutes on Saturday and Sundays from approximately 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Patrons using the Metro Gold Line, operating between East Los Angeles and Pasadena via downtown Los Angeles, can now enjoy more frequent service on the weekends with less waiting time between Gold Line trains.
The enhanced Gold Line service will encourage patrons to enjoy Old Town Pasadena, Chinatown, Little Tokyo and East LA over the weekend, making better and faster connections.
New timetables are now available on board trains. Plan your weekend on the Metro Gold Line by using Metro’s Trip Planner.
This isn’t hugely surprising, given the surge in ridership on the Gold Line in the past two years — which was helped by increasing the frequency of trains during weekday peak hours in June 2011.
Local officials break ground on the new McBean Parkway Transit Center expansion today in Santa Clarita. Photo by Juan Ocampo/Metro.
The McBean Regional Transfer Station will soon be expanding with a new McBean Park-and-Ride. The project will include 282 new parking spaces that are much needed as other park and ride lots in the Santa Clarita area and at nearby Metrolink stations are at full capacity.
“With $2.97 million MTA Call for Projects funding, the new McBean Park and Ride will be another vital link in our county-wide transportation system,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, Chairman of the Metro Board. “Santa Clarita Valley commuters will be able to carpool or vanpool from here, as well as connect with local Santa Clarita transit buses, Metrolink and express buses into the Los Angeles region.”
Currently, the McBean Regional Transit Center connects Santa Clarita’s local and express buses to major destinations throughout Santa Clarita, the San Fernando Valley, Westwood, Century City, Union Station, and downtown Los Angeles. The new park and ride will also add two more passenger loading areas for express bus boarding, along with lighting and bike lockers.
Metro provided 50 percent of the McBean Park-and-Ride project cost, programming $2.97 million through the 2007 Call for Projects.
Metro CEO Art Leahy talking at the groundbreaking today. Photo by Juan Ocampo/Metro.
Metro took another step forward toward construction of the Regional Connector Project by issuing a Request for Proposals, or RFP, last week for the 1.9-mile underground light rail line through downtown Los Angeles.
The $1.367-billion project is partially funded with $160 million in Measure R money, and is considered one of the region’s most important transit projects. It will connect the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines in downtown and will create major north-south and east-west transit lines across Los Angeles County. Early utility relocation work officially began in December.
Contractors likely to bid on the project have already been pre-qualified by Metro during an earlier process completed in 2012. Most are joint venture groups consisting of several construction-related firms. Click here to see a list.
As with the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project and the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Regional Connector will be built using a “design-build” delivery method. This method is also being using to build the first 3.9-mile segment of the Westside Subway Extension from Wilshire/Western to La Cienega.
Major advantages of design-build are a shortened project schedule and overall reduced project costs. The builder is able to start construction while the design is still being completed.
Project proposers will have until May 21 of this year to submit their bids. Metro anticipates selecting a contractor in late fall or following word from the Federal Transit Administration on the status of Metro’s Full Funding Grant Agreement that asks for a federal match to build the project. That could happen by September
Metro buses rack up a lot of miles and need to be replaced at regular intervals. The above Metro staff report proposes the purchase of 550 40-foot buses powered by compressed natural gas from New Flyer, which is based in Winnipeg and has manufacturing facilities in Minnesota.
It’s a big contract, valued at $302 million — about $549,000 per bus. The buses will be replacing vehicles that have been in service for at least 12 years and have more than 500,000 miles on them.
In December, Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky submitted a motion to the Metro Board to eliminate the $3 account maintenance fee for ExpressLanes customers. The fee has yet to go into effect — it won’t until the ExpressLanes open on the 10 freeway — and will only apply to those who use the ExpressLanes three or fewer times each month.
Nonetheless, I know the fee has been controversial among some Source readers. For those interested in the issue, I encourage them to read the staff report, which includes an explanation of why the fee was created and the impact of getting rid of it, as well as a look at how other agencies handle similar fees.
The Metro Board approved the fee as part of their overall approval of the ExpressLanes project and the Board will make the decision on whether to get rid of it. I’m guessing that one factor that will be considered is how much of a deterrent the fee has been for those considering signing up for a FasTrak transponder to use the ExpressLanes.
I’m interested in reading comments from those out there who read the staff report.
The Metro Board of Directors will be holding its committee meetings today and Thursday. I’m going through the agendas and will post staff reports and proposals that I think will be of the most interest to readers.
This one certainly qualifies. It’s a proposal by staff to install four ticket vending machines at the new El Monte Station. This is something that several Source readers requested after the station opened last fall as the machines are a convenient way to purchase TAP cards or replenish them without having to go online or go out of your way.
The final decision on the machines will be made by the full Metro Board at their regular monthly meeting on Jan. 24.